The Associated Press reports that the investigation into the Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Spindale is expanding into questions of whether church members enticed Brazilians to come to North Carolina and then forced them to work without pay. As is alleged to be the case with other church members, Brazilian former members of the church reportedly have told investigators that, in addition to being forced to work, they were subjected to physical and emotional abuse as a method of religious practice. Keep reading for more news.
Manhunt Ends. A six-day multicounty manhunt in Western North Carolina concluded early yesterday morning with the arrest of Phillip Michael Stroupe, II, in McDowell County. After stealing a bike at gunpoint on Saturday, Stroupe eluded authorities and caused the Pisgah National Forest to be closed for four days while the search was ongoing. Stroupe was discovered in a truck belonging to a Mills River man, Tommy Bryson, who was missing at the time of writing. Bryson’s disappearance is being investigated as a possible kidnapping.
Federal Criminal Justice Reform. The Wall Street Journal reports that it is unclear what direction federal criminal justice policy will take under the Trump administration because of conflicts on the issue between leading Republican lawmakers and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As an example, the Journal report says Sessions’ support for lengthy mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders is at odds with the views of Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and other senators. The report indicates that Trump senior advisor Jared Kushner has met with Grassley and others and is thought to be sympathetic to their position.
Bail. Speaking of federal criminal justice reform, senators Kamala D. Harris, a Democrat from California, and Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on Saturday announcing the introduction of legislation called the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act. According to the senators, the Act is intended to help states reform or replace their bail systems by providing grants for the implementation of new policies, requiring states receiving grants to report on their progress, and encouraging states to keep better data on their pretrial processes.
Big Brother. A report from the Washington Post says that information released by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia indicates that “[s]ealed law enforcement requests to track Americans without a warrant through cellphone location records or Internet activity grew sevenfold in the past three years in the District.” Apparently, this sort of public disclosure about the frequency of such requests is unprecedented. The intersection of law enforcement investigatory techniques and modern communication technology is a fast-evolving area of law, and Jeff wrote a good book about it in 2015.
Off Label Study. The L.A. Times reports that former dean of the Keck School of Medicine at USC, Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito, regularly used a variety of illegal drugs, including methamphetamine and ecstasy, and engaged in other illicit activity during his tenure as dean. The Times report says that Puliafito “kept company with a circle of criminals and drug users” while “partying in hotel rooms, cars, apartments and the dean’s office at USC.” Puliafito now is on leave from the school.
Free Gear. Do you need a set of military-spec night vision goggles? How about a simulated assault rifle or a pipe bomb trainer? Well, you’re in luck because the Law Enforcement Support Office program of the Defense Logistics Agency, a program that distributes excess Department of Defense military equipment to law enforcement agencies, will provide you with these items for free. All you have to do is create a fictitious federal agency and ask, according to the Government Accountability Office.